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How Gmail Works


Gmail Innovations
­Gmail lets users chat with friends directly from their inbox.
­Gmail lets users chat with friends directly from their inbox.
Image courtesy of Google

Gmail innovations go beyond simply handling e-mail on your personal computer. With Gmail from Google, you can chat with a friend or in groups, instant message (IM) with other AIM users, take advantage of mail with voice and use Gmail for Mobile from your BlackBerry, iPhone or other mobile device.

Mail with Voice

If you're also signed into downloadable Google Talk while using Gmail's chat features, you can make and receive voice calls. A "Call" button will appear next to your contacts' profiles. Unless that button appears gray, the person is available to talk.

Your contacts also can leave you voice messages using Google Talk's voicemail. These will appear as special messages in your inbox. They have the subject "Voicemail from ContactName (x seconds)" and appear with a telephone icon. To hear voicemail, click "Play" in the conversation view.

Gmail Chat

Like Google Talk, Gmail allows you to chat with just one person or with a group. You can chat with anyone on your chat list who has a colored ball next to his or her name. Go to "Chat" and find and click on the name of the person you want. That will open a chat window, so enter your message and press "Enter."

You also can search for a contact by entering the name you want in the box at the top of Chat. Or you can search for the person you want from your Contacts list and then click the Chat link. When you're finished chatting, click the x in the top right corner of the chat window. Chat works with Internet Explorer 6.0+ or Firefox 1.0+ but not with Safari or other browsers. Chats are saved and can be searched.

Group chat lets you talk with an unlimited number of contacts at once. Here's how to set it up:

  1. Start a chat with one person in your Contacts list.
  2. Click "Options" at the bottom left of the chat window, and select "Group Chat."
  3. Enter the names of contacts you want to add in "Add a person to this chat."
  4. To end the chat, click the x in the corner of the chat window. The group chat continues until everyone has left.

Chat/IM with AIM Users

With Gmail chat, you can sign into your AIM account from Gmail to chat with AIM buddies. They're listed among your contacts, and you can search for them. To chat, you just click on a name on your chat list and type a message.

Gmail for Mobile

Gmail for mobile can be accessed through a smartphone's Web browser or from an application downloaded to the phone. To access by browser, point your phone's browser to Gmail. The interface makes it appear as if you're using Gmail on your computer.

Downloadable Gmail for mobile also keeps your actions in sync with your Gmail account, but it's faster and uses less data than the browser version. To try downloadable Gmail for mobile, point the phone's browser to Gmail applications.

Either version provides Gmail functions like search and conversation view. And both have automatic synching so anything you do in Gmail from your phone is also shown in your regular Gmail account.

This article gives an overiew of Gmail services, but Google keeps upgrading and adding to its offerings. For lots more information about Gmail and related topics, follow the links on the next page.